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Reimagining Learning | Richard Culatta

“I never liked school,” says the US Department of Education’s Deputy Director of the Office of Educational Technology.  “I remember sitting in a high school math class that made no sense to me and had no connection to anything I cared about.  I remember looking at the teacher and the classroom and thinking, ‘There has to be a better way than this.’”

Richard Culatta has been doggedly pursuing that better way ever since.  His quest has taken him from classroom teaching to teacher training and now into national policy.  In his talk for TEDxBeaconStreet, he identifies three core problems with the traditional educational model that derail the learner experience.  But he’s far from pessimistic.

He believes that we have all the tools we need to overcome the challenges.  “All of the pieces exist to connect learning to students’ individual needs and interests.  Personalized learning may be the most important thing we can do to reimagine education in this country,” he says.  “And the digital stars are aligned to do it.”

Richard warns that reimagining learning with technology must be a conscious decision.   Simply infusing technology into our traditional classrooms won’t solve the challenges we face.   “If technology is just used to digitize the status quo we will soon create a complete digital replica of an outdated model.”

The opportunities that technology enables – personalizing learning, giving learners agency, connecting to experts – apply to learners at all levels.   “Whether we’re talking about a kindergartner learning how to read, a college student studying physics, or an engineer learning new software on the job, the ability to have  learning powered by technology can help us learn more effectively.”

Reimagining learning is about providing additional support to students and teachers.  “We need to empower teachers to use their talents as effectively as possible, and  we need to empower students to become lifelong learners.   It will take some focused rethinking to build an educational model that keeps all learners engaged,” he says. “We can’t be complacent about the number of students that we lose each day.  It’s just too important to leave to chance.”